13th annual Swollen Circus - hosted by Michael Hall and Walter Salas-Humara
Paul Minor, The Service Industry, Jonathan Rundman, Spottiswoode & His Enemies, Tom Freund, Jon Dee Graham, Michael Hall & The Savage Trip, SZ, The Minus 5, Gingersol, Syd Straw, The Silos & The Drew Glackin Memorial Choir
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11-March 2008 2008  /  Photoindex  /  Home

Since 1996 the Swollen Circus has been THE place to be on the evening before the SXSW festival kicks off. It has always provided the perfect opportunity to catch up with friends from all over the world you only get to see once a year and to enjoy 12 bands playing 3 songs each. This year’s event was dedicated to the memory of Drew Glackin, who had passed away earlier in year.
SwollenCircus

Paul Minor
"[Shadow Figure] is reminiscent of Dylan, but with an added touch of alternative country. Piano, harmonica, bass, musical saw and fiddle combine to create an eclectic twang. Singer/songwriter Minor pens lyrics that play over and over in your head, long after the music has stopped. His gift for melodies echoes Elvis Costello's, but his Texas voice makes him truly Austin." - Austin American Statesman
Paul Minor, best known as the leader of Superego, the long-time house band at the Hole in the Wall, was doing double duty at the Swollen Circus: not only did he work the sound all night, he also played the first set backed by Li'l Cap'n Travis members Gary Newcomb on musical saw (!) + bass and Jeff Johnston on guitar. Walter Salas-Humara joined them on drums for two of his three songs.

Paul Minor

The Service Industry
“The work-related power-pop of this Austin sextet alleviates the daily strain of anyone who toils for customers who think they're always right. Former Cher UK frontman Mike McCoy unloads hard-luck nuggets like "Now Wake Up and Die" and "They Fired Me" that land like strategically placed turds in the watery cocktail of irrational American exuberance on the Industry's latest, Limited Coverage.” – Greg Beets, Austin Chronicle
The Service Industry, a band consisting of veterans of Austin music scene was up next. The Meat Puppets' Curt Kirkwood, who plays on their latest record did not make it to the Hole, but their 10 minute set of energetic, guitar-driven Power-Pop was entertaining anyway. 
The Service Industry

Jonathan Rundman
“Growing up in the isolated Finnish communities of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Jonathan Rundman has drawn comparisons to singer/songwriters Paul Westerberg and Freedy Johnston for the decidedly homespun quality of his "heartland" rock.” - Matt Fink, allmusic.com
Jonathan Rundman’s 2004 album Public Library was produced by Walter Salas-Humara, who along with the rest on the Silos played on the record as well. Walter took the spot behind the drum kit for the last song (“Librarian”), and Tom Freund played bass.

Jonathan Rundman

Spottiswoode & His Enemies
"[Spottiswoode] mixes the dry humor of Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven's David Lowery with a dark, gravelly Leonard Cohen semi-sung growl. The song's arrangements, especially the horn charts, bring the jazz in a subtle way, snaking around the melody somewhat similar to Steely Dan. Each track is a mini-movie, splashed with oblique wit, offbeat wordplay, and an artistic integrity that never panders to commercial considerations.” - Hal Horowitz, allmusic.com
A very engaging set by this six-piece making their second appearance at the Circus: Saxophone, trumpet, accordion, mandolin, guitar and bass provided the perfect instrumentation for their eclectic material.

Spottiswoode & His Enemies
Spottiswoode & His Enemies

Tom Freund
"Breathing with an acoustic richness and lyrics that capture slices of Americana in a way that many attempt, yet very few actually master." - No Depression
Tom Freund played an intense set with Michael Jerome (drums) and John Young (bass). Walter Salas-Humara played guitar on a heartfelt “Why Wyoming”, an unreleased song written about the tragic death of their band mate Manny Versoza fifteen years ago.

Tom Freund

Jon Dee Graham 
“An Austin fixture since he was a teen Skunk and later True Believer, Graham's gotten better with age, 2006's Full [is] his strongest combination yet of gravel voice and gritty turns of phrase.” – Michael Bertin, Austin Chronicle
You can always be sure that Jon Dee Graham will deliver a mesmerizing show, but you never know who will be in his band: this evening The Fighting Cocks consisted of Andrew Duplantis on bass and Daren Hess on drums. Due to a miscommunication Jon Dee ended up playing five instead of the usual three songs, much to the delight of the audience. Setlist: “Tie A Knot”, “Broken”, “Wave Goodbye” (dedicated to Drew), “Laredo (Small Dark Something)”, and “The Greatest”, a song written by Dan Stuart of Green On Red.

Jon Dee Graham
Jon Dee Graham
Jon Dee Graham

Michael Hall & The Savage Trip
The Savage Trip is the latest project of Michael Hall (git, voc), Jenny Smith (violin, vocals), Julie Lowery (perc + vocals), both from Austin's Fire Marshalls of Bethlehem, and Randy Franklin (mandolin).
Without a rhythm section this was a slightly more subdued affair compared to Michael's previous performances at the Circus, but the group showcased some solid material: “Rabbit” (with Julie Lowery on lead vocals ), “Last Night I Heard You Singing The Melody Of Love” (Michael on lead vocals) and “Jojo” (with Jenny and Julie singing). 
Michael Hall & The Savage Trip
Michael Hall & The Savage Trip

SZ (a.k.a. Suzie Riddle) was next: her off-key warbling left many in attendance scratching their heads in disbelief and a good portion of the audience decided this was a good opportunity to enjoy a smoke or some fresh air on the sidewalk outside the club while she finished her set.

The Minus 5
“2006's The Minus 5 finds Scott McCaughey indulging his passion for British Invasion-era pop stuff (not an uncommon development). […] McCaughey's songs are the star attraction here, and as usual, the man is one of the underappreciated geniuses of pop songwriting. […] But if this is the relatively bummed-out Minus 5 album, it's still full of great songs played with genuine enthusiasm and imagination, and it says a lot about Scott McCaughey that even when the fates have him down, he still bubbles over with life and great music.” – Mark Deming, allmusic.com
The Minus 5 made a surprise appearance and managed to squeeze four songs into a ten-minute set: “In A Lonely Coffin”, “Aw Shit Man”, “Circle Sky” (Michael Nesmith), and a brisk rendition of “Strychnine” (Sonics) dedicated to Drew.

The Minus 5
The Minus 5
Crowd at Swollen Circus XIII

Gingersol
“Gingersol plays delightfully melodic, rough-edged rock that recalls the Replacements, early Wilco, or a more scruffy Gin Blossoms - but with their own, distinct sonic stamp.” - Erik Hage, allmusic.com
The Minus 5 were a hard act to follow, but Gingersol did an admirable job. The band officially broke up in 2005, but reunited for this occasion and played a rocking set. Seth Rothschild and Steve Tagliere were joined by Konrad Meissner on drums and Rod Hohl on bass for a set that included “Too Close To Call” and “Sleep Alright”.
Gingersol
Gingersol
Gingersol

Syd Straw
“Although Straw may only have two albums out, she's an enormously gifted vocalist and songwriter who has her own distinct musical vision, as evidenced on her self-produced War and Peace. That vision is a rootsy one, with lots of country and blues influences.” – Richard Skelly, allmusic.com
Syd Straw apparently likes to do things unhurriedly: She’s releasing a new record once per decade (apparently a new one titled Pink Velour is ready for release this year), and she took her time stretching two songs to over 20 minutes. After Peter Buck’s earlier appearance with The Minus 5 another member of R.E.M. got up on stage at the Hole: Mike Mills played bass as part of Syd's band, which also included Don Piper on guitar and Konrad Meissner on drums. I hadn't
expected much, but this was a very enjoyable set, especially the song “The Train That Takes You Away” from War And Peace and her comical between-song banter.
Syd Straw
Mike Mills playing with Syd Straw

The Silos & The Drew Glackin Memorial Choir
The Silos’ Walter Salas-Humara (guitar, vocals), Konrad Meissner (drums) and Rod Hohl (bass) were joined by Jon Dee Graham (guitar), Tom 
Freund (guitar) and Kevin Cordt (trumpet) for blistering versions of “Keeping Score”, “I’m Straight” and “The Only Love”. 

The Silos & The Drew Glackin Memorial Choir
The Silos & The Drew Glackin Memorial Choir
The Silos & The Drew Glackin Memorial Choir


All pictures (c) Steffen Paulus 2008